As a digital agency that cares deeply about reproductive rights, we noticed a theme between a cause and a web technology. In Congress, as with CAPTCHA, there are legitimate actors and illegitimate actors fighting to gain access to something.
We latched on to this idea: Robots don’t belong on the web. Politicians don’t belong between our legs. Thus, CAPTCHA for Congress was born. It’s open source tool, so you can install it on your own website (get it here, or try it on our site here).
Introduction: A Primer on Reproductive Rights in America
President Trump and his administration already managed to slowly but surely do incredible damage to reproductive rights and health.
For those not keeping score, in just three years they restricted federal funding given to family planning facilities, implemented a gag rule that prevents doctors from telling their patients how they can safely and legally access abortion, gave medical providers the right to refuse performing certain procedures (namely abortions and gender transitions) if it goes against the provider’s religious beliefs, proposed a rule making it harder for those on Affordable Care Act plans to access abortions, and – *deep breath* – attempted (and are still attempting) to defund Planned Parenthood.
This of course doesn’t stop at the executive branch. The two newest members of the Supreme Court have historically voted against abortion. And the nearly 150 federal judgeships filled by Trump feature justices with track records of restricting reproductive rights and overall health care access.
To round this all out, let’s turn to Congress. Since the 2010 midterms, Republican gains in both houses of Congress at the state and federal level lead to a real turn in reproductive services available to Americans, particularly abortion. In fact, at the state level, 231 new abortion restrictions were enacted, accounting over 25% of all restrictions since Roe v. Wade in 1973.
Put another way, in the nearly 50 years since Roe, congress passed an average of 3.7 restrictions per year. In the last 9 years, that number nearly doubles to 6.4 per year.
This Is Not a New Problem
And though this seems like a problem of the last decade, it’s actually closer to a century. The first contraceptive clinic opened in 1923, and was met with considerable opposition. Polarization, policy and science advanced year over year up until the turn of the century.
It’s at this point – in the 90s – we start to see restrictions on the constitutional right to abortion that we recognize today; things like mandatory 24-hour waiting periods between counseling and abortion, parental-consent laws, the establishment of the “undue burden” standard, and the abolition of the “trimester framework” in favor of a looser viability standard, opening the doors for states to further restrict access to family planning services.
Then Came CAPTCHA
At the same time that a nearly all male Congress (98% of the Senate, 99% of the House) was passing legislation aimed at stifling healthcare access for women, the Internet was hitting its stride. As we approached 2000, millions were going online, and with them malicious actors – hackers and criminals using automated “bots” guess personal passwords and attack unsuspecting websites.
In 1997, we saw the first CAPTCHA. Surely you’ve encountered one, though they change shape as bots grow more sophisticated. Maybe you remember this?:
And soon after, this:
A CAPTCHA, simply put, is an automated Turing Test. It’s designed to determine if you’re a robot or a human, then give you access to something if you pass. In the above example, at the time, bots were unable to process images with nonsensical hand-written notes (they’ve since gained that capability).
Point is, to submit a form, sign-in to an account, or submit a payment, a CAPTCHA acts as a security checkpoint of which only humans can pass.
CAPTCHA and Congress Collide
If the long-winded preamble wasn’t evidence enough, we care deeply about reproductive rights. And as a digital shop, we noticed a theme between a cause and a technology. In Congress, as with CAPTCHA, there are legitimate actors and illegitimate actors fighting to gain access to something.
We latched on to this idea: Robots don’t belong on the web. Politicians don’t belong between our legs. Thus, CAPTCHA for Congress was born.
CAPTCHA For Congress: How It Works
This was the basis for CAPTCHA for Congress. Instead of choosing all images with stop signs or store fronts, you’re asked to select politicians who shouldn’t be making decisions about family planning.
In this three by three grid, you’ll find recognizable politicians; all of which supported legislation aimed at controlling our access to reproductive care. Simply select the politicians you believe meet the criteria. Depending on your selection(s), you’re met with different responses.
If you select all nine, you see the following:
If you select eight or less, you’d see something like this:
To encourage spreading the message and education, you’re prompted to sign Planned Parenthood’s “Keep You Bans Off My Body” petition. It’s that simple.
We’ve made CAPTCHA for Congress an open-source project (get it here, or see a demo on ISL.co here), which means you can easily install it on your own website, and show solidarity using a recognizable, interactive, educational web widget.
Show Your Support!
Beyond sharing CAPTCHA for Congress on social and enabling the widget on your website, upvote us on Product Hunt, Reddit, and Hacker News. Oh, and please please please donate to organizations fighting for reproductive justice like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, or DCAF, if you’re able.
Lastly, if you have media inquiries, corrections, or questions of any shape, you can reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.